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Ali Siemianowski

Communications Specialist

Support Whole Health through Medical Monitoring

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We know that individuals with mental health and substance use conditions are at greater risk for chronic medical conditions – such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and COPD – than the general population. And adding primary care and wellness services designed to reduce the impact of chronic medical conditions among this population is quickly becoming a standard of care. However, existing psychiatrists and other behavioral health providers who operate in stand-alone mental health and addiction treatment organizations can also make strides toward identifying chronic conditions and getting clients the treatment they need to support overall recovery.

To do this, organizations need quality care and leadership among staff to have standards of care in place. Psychiatric providers can monitor medical conditions by screening for risk factors and looking at medication interactions. Every provider in a behavioral health organization should be educated on the chronic conditions most common among individuals with mental health and substance use conditions. Using basic checklists to incorporate questions about primary care as part of the intake process is a good place to start, as is discussing risk factors like weight, diet and tobacco use as part of treatment planning

All staff should also take advantage of opportunities to learn from one another and psychiatrists can lead the charge with medical knowledge. Consider special trainings for other providers, like care managers, who might have more direct time with a client and notice changes in habits, diet or medications.

To truly move the dial on mortality data, behavioral health providers must move beyond screening to have clients truly engaged in their health as a key element of their recovery. This involves action planning to help clients set short term, reasonable goals for their health. This can be as simple as dedicating time to walk around the block to increase physical activity, discussing healthy recipes or making a plan to quit smoking. Encouraging change to reach small health goals supports overall recovery.

The people you serve deserve the extra care to support whole health. To learn more, listen to the recording or download the presentation slides from Medical Monitoring in Behavioral Health: The Role of the Psychiatric Medical Team, a webinar from the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions (CIHS) and the American Psychiatric Association.

Find additional resources on integrated care, visit the SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions.

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